An old racing saw has it that no one ever committed suicide with a 2-year-old in the barn.
Likewise, even though the excitement of the Triple Crown is fading, even those who were disappointed in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont can start looking forward to the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships.
Don't look back. Look forward.
This week, it's easy to look forward to the championship races in October as several top weekend events provide some early signals as to which horses will be contenders in the various divisions at Lone Star Park in Texas. As the horses race toward that climactic day, we'll be looking at racing division by division.
$4 million Classic - Powered by Dodge
Southern Image has been the "now" horse in the handicap division through the early months of 2004 and Perfect Drift is trying to improve on his sixth-place finish in last year's Classic. But they were both shockingly upstaged in Saturday's $750,000 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs by 62-1 longshot Colonial Colony, loser of his last 12 starts. Colonial Colony lagged last of six as Peace Rules made the early pace. Southern Image got first run at the leader, grabbing the lead at the sixteenth pole. He and Colonial Colony then fought for the advantage through the final sixteenth, bumping at least once, before Colonial Colony got the nod. Perfect Drift was 5 lengths back in third.
Trainer Walter Binder said: "I feel like I'm numb. The move he made around the turn -- I had to look at it twice. I looked at those colors and thought, 'My God, this horse is mine!' This is hard to believe that he's passing the best horses in America the way he's passing them."
Colonial Colony, a 6-year-old Pleasant Colony gelding, finished 9 furlongs on a sloppy track in 1:50.40. Despite the dearth of wins, Colonial Colony had posted four second-place finishes in the past two years, including back-to-back runnings of the National Jockey Club Handicap at Hawthorne Race Course.
In other early preps for the Classic:
-- Seattle Fitz survived pressure on the lead and a fast pace in Saturday's $250,000 Brooklyn Handicap at Belmont Park, then had enough stuffing left to hold off a late run by the favorite, Dynever. At the wire, it was Seattle Fitz by 1/2 length. Newfoundland was third. Seattle Fitz, an Argentine-bred 5-year-old, ran the 1 1/8 mile in 1:46.30. "He outran them at every point of call," said winning jockey Richard Miglore. "End of story." Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said surgery to prevent the horse from displacing his soft palate "has made a big difference. ... I was a little nervous with that 1:08 and change (for the first 6 furlongs) but Richie wasn't. He's a very neat horse." McLaughlin said he will consider the 10-furlong Suburban Handicap on July 3 at Belmont.
-- Brass Hat and Pollard's Vision blew by the pace-setters in mid-stretch of Saturday's $350,000 Ohio Derby at Thistledown. Brass Hat then drew clear from Illinois Derby winner Pollard's Vision in the final furlong to win by 3 lengths at odds of 21-2. Pollard's Vision was 5 lengths better than California Derby winner Trieste's Honor. The favorite, Tampa Bay Derby winner Limehouse, finished sixth. Brass Hat, a gelded son of Prized, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:49.50 under Willie Martinez. Winning trainer William Bradley said Martinez "didn't take him out of our game plan and when it was time to run, he did." Martinez added, "Once I got him clear, I knew he was the best horse." Brass Hat won the Rushaway Stakes at Turfway Park on Lane's End Day in March.
-- Even the Score was easily the best in the stretch run in Saturday's $250,000 Californian Stakes at Hollywood Park. At the end the 6-year-old son of Unbridled's Song was 3 1/2 lengths to the good of runner-up Total Impact. Nose The Trade was third. Even the Score ran 9 furlongs in 1:47.64. Winning trainer Vladimir Cerin said Even the Score will look to the Gold Cup.
$2 million Distaff
-- Last year's upset Distaff winner, Adoration, rallied nicely through the stretch after stalking the early pace to win Saturday's $400,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill Downs by 1 1/4 lengths. Bare Necessities was second and La Reason finished third. Adoration, with Victor Espinoza in the irons, ran 9 furlongs through the slop in 1:52.15. She is a daughter of Honor Grades. Her task was made easier by the scratches of Cat Fighter, Miss Fortunate and Mayo On The Side. "When all the speed scratched, I really thought we'd be on the lead," said Espinoza. "But you never know with a race like this. When I took a hold of her, she began to settle. I don't think she was 100 percent comfortable in the stretch but her class showed today."
-- At Woodbine, outside Toronto, Eye of the Sphinx was such a convincing winner of Sunday's $500,000 (Canadian) Labatt Woodbine Oaks that speculation immediately surfaced about her potential against colts in the June 27 Queen's Plate. "We're going to take a look and see how she comes out of the race," said winning trainer Mark Frostad. "There's a lot of options out there for us." Eye of the Sphinx, who now has won all four career starts, went to an early lead in the Oaks, was headed by Silver Bird but regained the lead and won by a comfortable 4 1/4 lengths over Touchnow. The Smart Strike filly ran 9 furlongs in 1:53.11. Dance Smartly won the Oaks and the Plate in 1991 and Dancethruthedawn pulled the same "double" in 2001. Like Eye of the Sphinx, they both were owned by Sam Son Farm.
-- House of Fortune led most of the way in Saturday's $175,000 Hollywood Breeders' Cup Oaks, winning by 3 lengths over Elusive Diva. Hollywood Story was third. House of Fortune, a Free House filly ridden by Alex Solis, ran 1 1/16 mile in stakes-record time of 1:41.55. "We may consider the turf next," said winning trainer Ron McAnally. "I don't know. We'll enjoy this one."
$2 million John Deere Turf
Sabiango led all the way in Saturday's $350,000 Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap, winning by 3/4 length over Bayamo. Just Wonder was third. Sabiango, a German-bred son of Acatenango, ran 1 1/4 mile on the turf in 2:01.52. Tyler Baze was at the controls. "We were going to look for a prep race for him," said winning trainer Bob Baffert, who specialized in turf runners this weekend. "But our allowance races are just as tough as our stakes races sometimes, so I figured, why not take a shot?" Baze said he planned to lay off the pace but, "Nobody else really sent. It takes him a while to get going, so I thought, 'Let's just go.'
$1.5 million NetJets Mile (turf)
-- Prince Arch caught odds-on favorite Kitten's Joy in the final jumps to win Saturday's $200,000 Jefferson Cup for 3-year-olds at Churchill Downs. Cool Conductor was third, well back. Prince Arch, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Arch, got the 9 furlongs on yielding turf in 1:50.61 under Brice Blanc. "The soft ground kind of loosens it up for him to grind through it and run the others down," said winning trainer Kenny McPeek.
-- Also Saturday under the Twin Spires, Senor Swinger provided trainer Bob Baffert with an unusual grass victory by rallying in the stretch to win the $100,000 Opening Verse Handicap by 1 1/4 lengths over the favorite, Hard Buck. Majestic Thief finished third at long odds. Senor Swinger, a 4-year-old son of El Prado, ran the 1 1/16 mile over yielding going in 1:45.82. Baffert assistant John Good said Senor Swinger "loves it here" at Churchill Downs. Good said the horse delivered a poor showing last time out in the Pimlico Special because "he really didn't like the ground there and he only got beat by 2 1/2 lengths. He came back huge and he was really training good and he was happy."
$1 million Filly & Mare Turf
-- Sister Star chased the early pace in Saturday's $200,000 Regret Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Churchill Downs, came six-wide into the stretch and eased clear to win by 3 3/4 lengths over the favorite, Western Ransom. Jinny's Gold was third after showing the way. Sister Star, a daughter of Langfuhr, ran 9 furlongs on yielding turf in 1:51.40 with Brice Blanc aboard. "She really ran a huge race," said winning owner/breeder John Marker. "I'm kind of stunned, to be honest with you. I don't even know that it really happened." Trainer Kenny McPeek said the yielding turf helped Sister Star "because she's got such a big, long hip on her and she's been getting better and getting stronger."
-- Mambo Slew was taken back early in Sunday's $100,000 Sands Point Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Belmont Park. But when Edgar Prado asked her to move, she split rivals, got to the front with an inside move and was just up to win by a neck over favorite Lucifer's Stone. Vous was third. Mambo Slew, a daughter of Kingmambo from the Seattle Slew mare Slew Boyera, ran the 9 furlongs on the inner turf course in 1:47.24.
$1.5 million Bessemer Trust Juvenile
-- Expect Will came from off the pace in Saturday's $150,000 TTA Sales Futurity at Lone Star Park, got the lead inside the furlong pole and held on to win by a nose over Expect Wings. Leaving On My Mind was third and the favorite, Goes, finished fifth after enduring a nightmarish trip. Expect Will, a son of Valid Expectations, ran 5 furlongs in 58.69 seconds.
-- Whatsthenameman out ran nine opponents in the stretch to win Sunday's $50,000 Malcolm Anderson Stakes at Bay Meadows by 3 lengths. Questionable World was second and Wind Water thid. Whatsthenameman, by Muqtarib, ran 4 1/2 furlongs in 51.81 seconds.
$1 million Juvenile Fillies
--Berdelia, despite breaking from the No. 10 post position and racing wide, closed well in deep stretch to win Saturday's $150,000 TTA Sales Futurity for fillies at Lone Star Park. Glitter Sexy was second, 1 length back, and Miss Know It All finished third. The favorite, Rockin' Kate, put in a bid in the strength but couldn't sustain it and got home fourth. Berdelia is a daughter of Wild Zone. She finished the 5 furlongs in 58.79 seconds.
In other weekend racing:
Suave mounted a stretch-long drive to upset Saturday's $200,000 Northern Dancer Stakes for 3-year-olds by 3 lengths with J Town second and Ecclesiastic third. The favorite, Two Down Automatic, finished fourth. Suave is a son of A.P. Indy, trained by Paul McGee. He ran the 1 1/16 mile on a sloppy track in 1:44.50.
Loving won a battle to the wire with Private Lap in Saturday's $100,000 Brandywine Handicap. With Mario Pino calling the shots, Loving was closely engaged most of the way through the 1 1/16 mile and won by a head in 1:45.35. Private Lap was second and Donald's Pride was third. Loving is an 8-year-old Thundering Force gelding. "I really thought he would be back further early on," said Pino. "But when he broke so cleanly and quick, I let him stay there. The pace was not as fast as I expected."
Calder Race Course
Ladyinareddress won Saturday's $100,000 Office Queen Stakes by 2 lengths over Adobe Gold with Alarkandadove third. But then the stewards spent 15 minutes deciding how the final order of finish would look. When the were done pondering, Laydinareddress was still first but Adobe Gold was placed last for interference in the stretch. Alarkandadove was promoted to second and show money went to American Miss. Jockey Abdiel Toribio was unseated when his mount, Tiz A Dancer, clipped heels during the stretch-drive congestion but he was not injured. Ladyinareddress ran the 1 1/16 mile in 1:48 3/5.
Norfolk Knight seized the lead in the first turn of Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Steady Growth Stakes and held on through slow fractions, winning by 3 1/4 lengths over late-running Hot Pepper Hill. Barath, a Pennsylvania Park shipper, was third. The Steady Growth, restricted to offspring of Ontario-based stallions, went in 1:44.54.
Sunday, Organ Grinder, the favorite, drew off in the stretch to win the $125,000 (Canadian) Victoria Park Stakes for 3-year-olds by 6 lengths over Copper Trail. Tobe Suave was third. Organ Grinder, a Kentucky-bred son of Grindstone, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:51.55 for jockey Patrick Husbands.
Chance Dance got past pace-setting longshot It's Spooky in the stretch run of Saturday's $75,000 Estrapade Handicap and then held off Julie's Prize to win by a head. The race was moved from the turf to a fast main track. "We wanted to run on the grass," said winning trainer Richie Scherer. "She has a grass pedigree. She's very consistent on both turf and dirt but we still think she's a little better on the turf."
Crozet launched her bid from the back of a five-horse field in Saturday's $75,000 Bay Meadows Oaks as the field turned for home. Swinging wide, the Charismatic filly quickly took charge and won off by 4 1/2 lengths over the favorite, Kurlicue. Lost Bride was third under the wire. Crozet finished the 1 1/16 mile on firm turf with Ron Warren in the irons in 1:43.83.
Black Bart got right to the lead in Sunday's $75,000 Quicken Tree Stakes, repelled a challenge from Shalini and went on to win by 2 lengths. Remonte finished second and Ringaskiddy was third. Black Bart, a 5-year-old Stage Colony gelding, negotiated the 1 1/2 mile on firm turf in 2:28.05 for Alex Solis.
Mistda came between rivals on the turn for home in Saturday's $60,000 Revidere Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, went quickly to the lead and won by 4 1/4 lengths. Menifeeque was second and Fall Fashion third. Rodeo Licious finished fifth and last as the pari-mutuel favorite. Mistda is a New York-bred daughter of Runaway Groom. She ran 1 mile in 1:36.94.
Also Saturday, Megantic moved out for running room in the stretch and passed most of his rivals to win the $60,000 Battlefield Stakes by 1 1/2 lengths. Better Talk Now led in the stretch but couldn't hold on, finishing second, and the favorite, Del Mar Show, was 1 length farther back in third. Megantic, a 6-year-old son of Theatrical, ran 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:48.
Sunday, Pocus Hocus rallied in deep stretch to win the $70,000 Monmouth Beach Stakes by a head over Chrusciki. Final Round was third. Pocus Focus, by Quiet American, finished the 1 1/16 mile in 1:44.32.
Wildwood Royal dueled for the lead into the turn in Saturday's $50,000 Wild Rose Stakes for fillies and mares, then got clear and won off by 2 1/2 lengths. Miss Fortunate was second as the favorite and Casual Attitude finished third. Wildwood Royal, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred filly by Royal Academy, ran 1 1/16 mile on a "good" track in 1:41.44.
Boston Express led from gate to wire in winning Saturday's $50,000 Dixie Miss Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. At the line, the daughter of Boston Harbor was 9 3/4 lengths ahead of her closest rival, Injustice. Movant was third and the favorite, Everheart, raced evenly to finish fifth. Boston Express ran 6 furlongs in 1:09.25.
Native Hawk took charge as the field turned for home in Saturday's $40,000 Brooks Fields Stakes and won by 3 lengths over Colorful Tour. Adroitly Superb was third. Al's Dearly Bred and Rapid Raj were scratched when the event moved from the turf to the main course after days of rain.